Welcome to Zero2 Expo’s first blog, yay.
My name is Alex and I started this initiative to raise awareness about babies and families as a result of my life-long interest and research, in various ways, into pregnancy, birth and parenthood as well as being an artist, art psychotherapist, doula and mother. In addition, I align with the themes described in the 1001 Critical Days – the UK’s first cross-party children’s manifesto which underpins this work.
My team and I have created Birthing a Better Future Art and Science Exhibition after a successful launch in the houses of parliament in 2016. Since its launch in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford at the end of 2017 it plans to continue its journey around the UK this autumn. The exhibition shines a spotlight on the period between conception to the age of two of a baby’s life through the latest scientific research and embellished by thought provoking art. We all know that women are advised to look after themselves during their pregnancy, primarily by eating healthy food and not drinking, smoking or taking drugs. However, there is increasing evidence that how a women feels during pregnancy can also affect foetus development. Stress, anxiety, depression, fear and other environmental factors at particular susceptible periods can influence infant brain development that could last a lifetime if not treated early. Every situation is different and we cannot use one glove to fit all scenarios, or make people unnecessarily worried but what scientists are revealing is that the factors mentioned above are relevant to infant development and therefore we all need to support pregnant women to create as stress-free and harmonious pregnancy as possible. Whether this is done by raising awareness or by investing in relevant services to enable women to get the support they need, it is vital that we are all aware and collectively help create a solid foundation on which the next generation can thrive.
For the past 20 years I have spent time in Bali, Indonesia, researching, observing and practicing the ways they raise children. Witnessing how these children have grown from birth into beautiful adults, including my own child, is good enough evidence for me and has nothing to do with science. Here are some of things I’ve learned over the years, although I’m not suggesting we should simulate these very traditional practices but merely contemplate on them because ironically science is now inviting us to look at the same areas as the Balinese have done instinctively (and no doubt many other cultures):
Couples practice (often but not always) conscious conception meaning both parties enter into the creation of new life in agreement and both share a desire to receive a new soul into their care-taking. Although the Balinese are more ‘traditional’, this sentiment can also apply with same sex couples, or where conception takes places in other forms, i.e. IVF etc. It is really about entering into parenthood consciously.
Couples honour the conception and pregnancy with ceremony where the family and friends rejoice. They believe that ‘the Gods’ have blessed them with a child for which they are deeply grateful and do all they can to ensure s/he grows in a peaceful womb and external environment.
Pregnant women eat appropriately – healthy life-giving food, less meat, avoid stimulants like tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, alcohol, smoking and drugs.
Pregnant women practice mindfulness. They believe in raising their vibration by being conscious of what they think and feel, focussing on positive thoughts, refrain from being too emotional, try to avoid all stress and engage in daily prayer.
They believe that their internal and external environment affects the developing foetus!
Pregnancy, birth and being a mother is revered and that it is an easy, joyful, natural journey (even when things go wrong). This notion totally flipped the lid on my conditioning because although I wanted children, somehow in the UK being a mother is so last season and that work is far more important than nurturing the next generation. I felt the Balinese ‘way’ gave me permission to enjoy the whole process and I realised I could be valued for being both a committed parent and a woman who works. In fact, I challenge this further and say women are powerful for be themselves whatever they wish to do – work, have families, travel, study, dance, paint, write, or lead the way.
Birth is considered a sacred rite of passage, not only for the baby but also for the mother (in particular). Traditionally women gave birth at home but hospitals are now taking over. The highly acclaimed Bumi Sehat Community Health Education and Childbirth Centre is creating a different kind of birthing paradigm that provides a safe, clean and women-centred service! ‘At Bumi Sehat clinics you will find a blend of allopathic and holistic medicine, which effectively reduces suffering. Research has proven that our children’s first classroom is the womb. Each baby’s capacity to love and trust is built at birth and in the first two hours of life. By protecting pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding, we are advocating for optimal humanity, health, intelligence and consciousness’ (Quote Link).
Breast-feeding has never been questioned unless there is a problem.
Co-sleeping happens naturally and I’ve never known a baby to die or be harmed from sleeping in the same bed as the parents. *It is advised not to sleep with your child if you drink heavily or take drugs.
Carrying babies particularly in the first 6 months ensures they have a slow and peaceful journey to earth. It also means that a baby always feels attached, secure and loved by the mother, father, grandparents, other children or wider family members. S/he feels that the world is a safe and responsive place.
Crying babies are seldom heard unless for obvious reasons. Because babies are usually carried by the mother, this enables easy access to breastfeeding on demand. If the mother isn’t around then someone is usually carrying the baby or interacting with s/he in some way. They are always connected to a loving person so rarely get distressed. They believe a child shouldn’t be left alone to cry as this raises cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and is not good for the child’s health and wellbeing.
LOVE! They believe in giving the child all the love and attention they need whilst getting on with life. If they need to work and employ a ‘nanny’ they are usually just as loving and attentive as the parents (on the whole!).
The Balinese are truly Child Centred and it pays off because they grow up into confident, intelligent, loving adults who all feel comfortable, not only in life but also handling babies. Having said this, they also suffer from the same problems as anywhere else in the world: perinatal depression, domestic violence, poor nutrition, poverty etc although it is perhaps not as pronounced as in Western cultures. Pros and cons to both places.
Another thing I really love observing is how great fathers are with their children (again on the whole). There is absolutely NO dispute anywhere in the world that doesn’t acknowledge the value of fathers! Having positive male or female role models in a child’s life is important regardless of the family constellation.
And lastly, Community. The Balinese embody community whether in their home compound or cooperatively doing activities that serve their wider community, usually preparing for a ceremony. Living in harmony with people (again, on the whole) prevents loneliness and guarantees there is always support on hand.
As I said above, nothing I say is meant to be prescriptive but simply an offering as food for thought.
Thank you for reading and we hope to bring you many more blogs that offer insight into topics related to the 1001 critical days of life.
Very best wishes,
*Check out this brilliant website Begin Before Birth for lots of interesting information: